HauyatTraditional knowledge meets Western science on the central coast of British Columbia
Hauyat is a quiet inlet along the central coast of British Columbia, sheltered from the wild swells of the open Pacific Ocean, about 400 kilometers north of Vancouver. An outsider may see few traces of human habitation on the landscape, but the ancestors of the Heiltsuk Nation lived here for millennia, managing the landscape and cultivating a deep connection between people and place. People stopped living at Hauyat in the 20th century, but many still visit and recall childhoods spent here, in the words of one elder, learning how to be Heiltsuk. Today, many Heiltsuk live nearby in the small village of Bella Bella, which has been in the news more than usual of late. In September, it was the site of a royal visit by Prince William and Duchess Catherine. In October, the US articulated tugboat Nathan E. Stewart ran aground nearby, spilling diesel into the surrounding waters for a month before crews finally salvaged it on November 14.
This video explores the importance of this coastal place to the Heiltsuk and highlights an ongoing collaborative project that combines Western science with traditional knowledge to tell the story of Hauyat.
Synopsis from the trailer: https://diasp.org/posts/5993306
Located on the northern end of Hunter Island near the modern day Heiltsuk community of Bella Bella, the long-standing Heiltsuk connection to Hauyat is evident—from mountaintop to ocean floor, and from the archaeology, oral traditions, and people’s memories.
In collaboration with and guided by the Heiltsuk community and the Heiltsuk Integrated Resource Management Department, archaeologist Dana Lepofsky and her team are combining a variety of data and knowledge sources to arrive at a richer understanding of Hauyat’s past and continued ties to the local community today.
“The mystery of this place is really just waiting to be told. What you find is that people have lived here for thousands and thousands of years. You’re standing on 6,000 years of terraces of house platforms—in this unbelievable spot with this commanding view of this entire watershed, the watershed of Hauyat. So what we’re doing is trying to peel back that past, listen to the stories, the memories of people today, and also the stories that are told in the ground, and put that together and tell the history of Hauyat,” says Lepofsky, a Hakai affiliate and professor at Simon Fraser University.